Early on every year, there are those records that you’re certain will make the top of your year-end charts, that you’re sure is going to be among the very best the year has to offer. Perhaps it’s in part due to our particular demarcation of years as periods for music, when clearly the shifts and swings are more organic than that.
Perhaps it’s just out of a desire to start with a clean slate: The music really piles up when you’re making those year-end lists, then there’s nothing of note for two, three, maybe four weeks. That break is a bit like those coffee beans they give you to cleanse your palate at a wine tasting, and after a full year of listening, a cleansing is certainly beneficial.
This year, my early pick was the consummate Destroyer album Kaputt — easily my top pick of January and somehow still in the running for my year-end list. It’s full of little things that are easy to ignore but brilliant to take in: Every listening produces something a bit different. And those melodies — oh, those melodies — are impossible to ignore. It’s the lack of jumpiness, both in construction and in presentation, that really define Dan Bejar’s outpouring. The melodies are evocative in the smooth, definitive quality that permeates the album.
It’s even better on vinyl, too! The third side of the album is a bit of a suite that’s not found in other releases, and it adds a nice quality to the flow of the album. Sure, it pushes the runtime to a lengthy 70 minutes, but it completes the album. The thing is, I’m not even sure it needed completion, and it was dangerous to mess with what was already very strong — but here it is nonetheless, and it’s one of the best parts of the double LP. See what a little risk-taking gets you?
Standout tracks include “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker,” “Song for America,” and “Kaputt,” though it’s a bit odd that tracks can stand out when the whole of the album is at a high level. To be fair, any of the songs could have reasonably been picked as standouts, and any decision has a degree of arbitrariness to it.
Has it held up well? Certainly so. It’s one of the few albums released this winter that have held my attention raptly through the spring and summer, and I don’t think I’d be lying if I said that I expect it to last a good deal longer than that with consistent listening. Is it Destroyer’s Rubies? No, but it certainly holds up favorably next to it. Thankfully, I’m not in the business of ranking Dan Bejar’s work on some mysterious scale.
At this point, it would take a downpour of brilliant releases to seal this one out of the top ten. It is, I think, one of the few surefire bets of the year.
“… this is an early contender for album of the year — when the end comes, don’t forget about this January masterpiece.” — Me, in January.
Yeah, I’d say it’s held up just fine.